Extraterrestrials in Arizona: The Five Most Infamous Alien Encounters in the State
Travis Walton and the Fire in the Sky (1975)
Retired Arizona logger Travis Walton has spent the past 40 years haunted by the skepticism and publicity that surrounds one of the best-known alien abduction stories in history.
On November 5, 1975, while working with a logging crew, the 22-year-old Walton noticed a metallic golden disk hanging in the sky, 15 feet above a tangled pile of logs in a dense forest area in Northern Arizona, near Snowflake.
Walton approached the disk, which began to wobble from side to side. Suddenly, a blue-green light emanated from the craft, striking Walton and lifting his body in the air. His terrified colleagues, who witnessed the abduction, drove off in a pick-up truck.
For five days Walton was missing, spurring a nationally publicized manhunt. When he reappeared, naked and disoriented, he told a chilling tale of a spaceship and silent, big-eyed extraterrestrials.
Walton claimed that when he regained consciousness aboard the craft, he found himself surrounded by squat, bald creatures.
"I was looking squarely into the face of a horrible creature. It looked steadily back at me with huge, luminous brown eyes the size of quarters," he writes in Fire in the Sky, his book about the experience. "I looked frantically around me. There were three of them!"
He claimed to remember little else, as one of the creatures placed a helmet over his face and he blacked out.
For years, Walton has been plagued by hostile investigators, an exploitive press, and debunkers.
"In the '70s, there were several other abduction stories," says Willes. "The Travis Walton case trumps the other cases because there were several witnesses — who passed lie-detector tests — that saw him get beamed up into the UFO."
In 1993, Fire in the Sky was made into a movie.
Scooch over, Roswell, New Mexico: The Phoenix Lights sighting of 1997 solidified our fair city's prominence on the UFO-lore map.
The Phoenix Lights (1997)
As most Arizonans know, the otherworldly event that elevated Phoenix's prominence in the annals of UFO lore was the Phoenix Lights — one of the largest mass UFO sightings of all time.
On March 13, 1997, a string of glowing orbs hovered over Paradise Valley skies. For three hours the huge, V-shaped formation passed silently over a 300-mile corridor from the Nevada line through Phoenix to the northern edge of Tucson.
The lights were witnessed by thousands and photographed by hundreds, who had been watching the skies that night to catch a glimpse of a passing comet.
The military later claimed the wedge of lights was nothing more than flares dropped over the Valley during a training exercise.
But witnesses — including then-Arizona Governor J. Fife Symington III — were convinced they saw an otherworldly craft. "It couldn't have been flares because it was too symmetrical," Symington would tell Prescott Daily Courier reporter Leslie Kean 10 years later. "It had a geometric outline, a constant shape."
Few reported UFO sightings have generated more passion, publicity, and debate than the Phoenix Lights.
Dr. Lynne Kitei, a local physician who witnessed the phenomenon and produced a documentary about it, says the incident mystifies UFO researchers to this day.
"Much has happened since the historic and still-unexplained March 13, 1997, mass sighting, propelling the Phoenix Lights into the international limelight as the most witnessed, most documented, and most important mass anomalous aerial events in modern history,” she tells New Times.
Jeff Willes says the Phoenix Lights was impossible for the government to conceal.
"The Phoenix Lights is Arizona's biggest UFO story," he says. "Thousands of witnesses saw this V-shaped object that flew all across the state. There still hasn’t been a UFO sighting like that in UFO history."
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